- Lawyers hired by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane to scour thousands of emails on state servers for pornography and other offensive content will be paid at rates ranging up to $880 an hour, according to a contract made public yesterday.
The compensation for five lawyers who will participate in the review is spelled out in the contract between Kane's office and the Washington law firm of Buckley Sandler. The rates reflect a 15 percent discount from the firm's usual hourly rates and the lowest is $205, the contract says.
Kane appointed one of the firm's partners, former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, to lead the review. Gansler, a fellow Democrat, has agreed to work for roughly $80 an hour, proportional to Kane's $159,000-a-year state salary, although the details of his own contract are still being fine-tuned, he said.
Gansler said the approval of the contracts means that the review can start next week, focusing on emails on government computers that date back to 2009. He said the $2 million estimate of the cost of the review was a "best guess" based on preliminary information.
The team, which will have subpoena and grand jury powers, may prosecute if it finds evidence of any crimes in emails shared by judges, prosecutors and others.
"We run a tight ship," he said. "Our plan is to be as efficient as we possibly can be" by using resources within the attorney general's office when possible.
Kane, the first Democrat and first woman to be elected as the state's attorney general, is running her office without a law license as she fights unrelated charges of perjury and obstruction for allegedly leaking secret grand jury material to the Daily News and then lying about it. The state Supreme Court suspended her license in October, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has called for her to resign.
Last year, Kane uncovered emails that she described as "racist, misogynistic, homophobic and religiously offensive" when she appointed another outside lawyer to review her predecessors' handling of the child sexual abuse investigation into former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
She has gradually released thousands of emails to reporters and disciplined dozens of people inside her own agency who traded the emails in what has become a far-reaching government scandal.
One state Supreme Court justice abruptly resigned after his role in the scandal became public last year. A sitting justice, Republican Michael Eakin, was advised Thursday by the court that rules on judicial misconduct cases that he faces possible suspension over offensive emails he traded with lawyers and others.
The Court of Judicial Discipline scheduled a Dec. 21 hearing to give Eakin a chance to respond. Kane was directed to search for all emails sent to or from Eakin since 2008 whose substance was "sexually explicit, misogynistic, ethnically insensitive, racist or homophobic."